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Why dilute motor oil for chain lube?

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Why dilute motor oil for chain lube?

Old 07-04-16, 07:30 PM
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Why dilute motor oil for chain lube?

Most of the home brew chain lubes using motor oil are a 50/50 mix of oil and mineral spirits. Is 5w30 or 5w20 synthetic so thick it needs diluted? It seems that if you diluted it this way it would be like solvent.
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Old 07-04-16, 07:43 PM
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It seems that if you diluted it this way it would be like solvent.
That's part of the idea. Actually, you should thin it more than that. The stuff is cheap. Slather it on and scrub / rub off the surface dirt with it. IOW, use it as a cleaner. Then apply more for lubrication and wipe off the excess. The mix flows into the chain's moving parts and when the mineral spirits evaporate off it leaves the motor oil in there.

That's the theory, anyway.

There are so many ways to maintain a chain and they all work better than not. Do what's convenient and seems sensible to you. But do, do it.
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Old 07-04-16, 07:48 PM
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That makes sense. So 4 to 1 ratio?
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Old 07-04-16, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey
That makes sense. So 4 to 1 ratio?
The originally developed formula was 3/1 V/V odorless mineral spirits/synthetic motor oil but wide variations on the ratio (and the type of oil) also work. Try the original formula first and modify it to suit your needs.
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Old 07-04-16, 10:30 PM
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Chain lubes are kinda tricky. They need to be runny to be able to get to where they're needed. Once there they need to be sticky to stay where they're needed.
One way to (try to) achieve that is by using a solvent that'll evaporate after the oil has seeped into the chain.
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Old 07-05-16, 06:22 AM
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Doesn't motor oil, by design, require constant pumping via an oil pump, and being splashed onto the valvetrain/rockers/cams/dripped onto the crank, then recirculated...Seems like if engine oil was designed to act as a chain lube, you'd brush it on your camshaft/valvetrain and call it a day.

I think motor oil is a poor substitute for a chain lube, personally...and if, as mentioned above, you're buying synthetic motor oil for this purpose, you're spending more money than a quality bottle of chain lube anyway.
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Old 07-05-16, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by deapee
Doesn't motor oil, by design, require constant pumping via an oil pump, and being splashed onto the valvetrain/rockers/cams/dripped onto the crank, then recirculated...Seems like if engine oil was designed to act as a chain lube, you'd brush it on your camshaft/valvetrain and call it a day.

I think motor oil is a poor substitute for a chain lube......
First automotive oil pumps don't "splash" or "drip" the oil onto cam and crank bearings. They are fed under pressure.

Second, automotive bearings operate under forces, temperatures and rotational speed bicycles can't imagine so the demands are vastly higher.

Finally, motor oil has a long and successful history as a bicycle chain lube so success is the best justification for using it in one form or another.
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Old 07-05-16, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by HillRider
First automotive oil pumps don't "splash" or "drip" the oil onto cam and crank bearings. They are fed under pressure.

Second, automotive bearings operate under forces, temperatures and rotational speed bicycles can't imagine so the demands are vastly higher.

Finally, motor oil has a long and successful history as a bicycle chain lube so success is the best justification for using it in one form or another.
I can assure you that oil pretty much drips out onto the camshaft and the camshaft spashes it around...


You don't have to be an engineer to know that a lubricant designed for the purpose that it is being used for is better than using one engineered for another application completely.
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Old 07-05-16, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by deapee
I can assure you that oil pretty much drips out onto the camshaft and the camshaft spashes it around...

True as such. But the most important lubrication spots - like cam/crankshaft journals - are pressure fed.
How much that is splash lubed depends on the engine. Pistons/cylinders may be splash lubed etc.
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Old 07-05-16, 07:47 AM
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I use 0-weight Mobil One for a few non-bicycle applications and it may be what you're looking for. It's very thin and runny. I use it wherever I need a light machine oil.
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Old 07-05-16, 09:06 AM
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Old 07-05-16, 09:58 AM
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How about chainsaw bar oil w/ mineral spirits ?? Let's add another option
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Old 07-05-16, 10:38 AM
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I would go for a bit thick and sticky myself. We tried a thinnish oil once and it ended up all over the chain stay and my right shoe as
well as a bit on the rim. Since we had a disk brake on that wheel no biggy (tandem) but the mess was not appreciated. This was
borrowed from another tandem rider and looking at his bike: same mess, but he liked the lube, some innominata from an auto
parts store. I used to use the solvent based 'teflon/wax' stuff but ultimately switched to Shimano chain lube (on sale). Bottle has lasted
several years and the build up of 'wax' on the chain, cassette and pulleys was less. As to cost any car oil is going to be a lot cheaper
than bike chain lube: even synthetic oil at $10/qt is cheaper than 4-6 oz of bike store chain lube at $6-10 per bottle. Not exactly easy
to use out of the can but you could improvise a dropper bottle. One quart would last a decade or so for even the most assiduous of
chain cleaners. Bar oil for chain saws is sold by the gallon, I agree it would work fine on bike chains. Lifetime supply for $10-20.

Last edited by sch; 07-05-16 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 07-05-16, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey
Most of the home brew chain lubes using motor oil are a 50/50 mix of oil and mineral spirits. Is 5w30 or 5w20 synthetic so thick it needs diluted? It seems that if you diluted it this way it would be like solvent.
Even a very thick oil will have no problem being drawn into a chain, especially a clean chain, by capillary action. Many bike-specific lubes are much thicker than any motor oil and don't contain volatile carriers. Mixing with mineral spirits (and by the way most people dilute it much more than 50/50) has two purposes: First, it does indeed have solvent properties, which helps clean some of the old sludge out of the chain. Second, mineral spirits are volatile. If you let the chain sit overnight, they will evaporate, leaving a thinner film of oil inside the chain than you would get if you just used straight motor oil. The idea is that if you have too much oil held inside the chain, it will migrate to the outside when you start pedaling, attracting dirt and getting flung off onto the wheel and RD, and generally making a mess.

Some solvent-free wet lubes (e.g. Chain-L) are thick and sticky enough on their own that they tend to stay put in the chain and are less messy, but motor oil was never intended for bicycle chains so it needs a little help. Even with the bike-specific heavy lubes, you can still make quite a mess if you're sloppy with it, especially when applying to a dirty chain.
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Old 07-05-16, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01
How about chainsaw bar oil w/ mineral spirits ?? Let's add another option
I use mine straight. Works quite well. Downside is a bit more frequent cleaning depending on the riding environment.

-SP
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Old 07-05-16, 11:37 AM
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Wiping off the excess is key with wet lubes. I give the oil a few minutes to soak in, but then wipe until the chain feels nearly dry to the touch. No splattering all over the place for me!
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Old 07-05-16, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by deapee
Doesn't motor oil, by design, require constant pumping via an oil pump, and being splashed onto the valvetrain/rockers/cams/dripped onto the crank, then recirculated...Seems like if engine oil was designed to act as a chain lube, you'd brush it on your camshaft/valvetrain and call it a day.

I think motor oil is a poor substitute for a chain lube, personally...and if, as mentioned above, you're buying synthetic motor oil for this purpose, you're spending more money than a quality bottle of chain lube anyway.
I use a motor oil as my chain lube and it works very well and 1 liter of motor oil is cheaper or about the same price as 125ml or therabouts of chain lube that works no better.

I have a quick link on my chain and when the chain gets really dirty I take it off and run it through a chain cleaner device until the detergent I use stays clean. I thn put the chain into warm motor oil and leave it sit for some time and then hang it up to drip dry. No problems with squeaking chains and my chains last a long time.

Cheers
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Old 07-05-16, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by deapee
Doesn't motor oil, by design, require constant pumping via an oil pump, and being splashed onto the valvetrain/rockers/cams/dripped onto the crank, then recirculated...Seems like if engine oil was designed to act as a chain lube, you'd brush it on your camshaft/valvetrain and call it a day.

I think motor oil is a poor substitute for a chain lube, personally...and if, as mentioned above, you're buying synthetic motor oil for this purpose, you're spending more money than a quality bottle of chain lube anyway.

It also lubes the cam chain.
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Old 07-05-16, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01
How about chainsaw bar oil w/ mineral spirits ?? Let's add another option
I've used that. It works well, too. Very sticky, do thin it like 5:1 and wipe thoroughly or you'll bring back an entire sandbox full of grit on your chain.
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Old 07-06-16, 11:39 AM
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Are you guys freaking serious? Motor oil concoctions?? What the heck is wrong with a $6 bottle of Squirt that lasts forever? You guys have way too much time on your hands.
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Old 07-06-16, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota
Are you guys freaking serious? Motor oil concoctions?? What the heck is wrong with a $6 bottle of Squirt that lasts forever? You guys have way too much time on your hands.


haha my friend. Cyclists are notoriously frugal and cheap. On top of that they all think they're smarter than everyone else. Just look at all the threads that turn into NASA engineering threads.
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Old 07-06-16, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota
Are you guys freaking serious? Motor oil concoctions?? What the heck is wrong with a $6 bottle of Squirt that lasts forever? You guys have way too much time on your hands.
It's the same with firearms. You can't just use Break-free CLP to clean your guns (like the Army does exclusively). You have to mix your own special blend, the favorite being something called "Ed's Red".

Unlike firearms, however, I proudly use WD-40 on my bicycles and have been for 45 years. It's cheap, readily available, and works well.

Last edited by Jeff Neese; 07-06-16 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 07-16-16, 05:59 PM
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I should have mentioned that 90% of my riding is gravel. Today I cleaned my chains with brake cleaner and wiped dry and kept spraying till it was shiny and clean. Then I applied a 50-50 mix of bar oil and mineral spirits and let sit. I started to have second thoughts and I called the wife (who was shopping in the city) and asked her to pick me up another bottle of white lightning. I was too leary of attracting dust and grit even before I gave the bar oil mix a trial ride. I went to town for a few honey do chores and came home after 4 hours and checked both my bikes chains. I was surprised that they both had a "similar" feel to a new chain in tackiness. I backpedaled over and over leaving clean rags black and then sprayed brake cleaner on the rags and backpedaled some more. The chains are "fairly" clean to the touch with a very slight hint of lube (but not much) and now I am thinking maybe this will work better than White lightning. My confusion comes from this.....I got a good riding friend who loves White Lightning and says one application lasts him a long time before reapplication is needed. Everything else I have read on the net from forum pages to actual product reviews states different. Everyone agrees that is is an extremely clean lube and does not attract dirt but everyone but my friend says it doesn't last long at all like a 90 year old man without Viagra LOL!! I should find out the truth myself but I would like to get started on the right foot the first time. I got to admit this bar oil mix appears to be really slick.
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Old 07-16-16, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota
Are you guys freaking serious? Motor oil concoctions?? What the heck is wrong with a $6 bottle of Squirt that lasts forever? You guys have way too much time on your hands.
Very little of what gets posted in this forum makes any sense at all. That's doubly true when the subject is chain lube.
For most posters, it's a fetish.
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Old 07-16-16, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey
I should have mentioned that 90% of my riding is gravel. Today I cleaned my chains with brake cleaner and wiped dry and kept spraying till it was shiny and clean. Then I applied a 50-50 mix of bar oil and mineral spirits and let sit. I started to have second thoughts and I called the wife (who was shopping in the city) and asked her to pick me up another bottle of white lightning. I was too leary of attracting dust and grit even before I gave the bar oil mix a trial ride. I went to town for a few honey do chores and came home after 4 hours and checked both my bikes chains. I was surprised that they both had a "similar" feel to a new chain in tackiness. I backpedaled over and over leaving clean rags black and then sprayed brake cleaner on the rags and backpedaled some more. The chains are "fairly" clean to the touch with a very slight hint of lube (but not much) and now I am thinking maybe this will work better than White lightning. My confusion comes from this.....I got a good riding friend who loves White Lightning and says one application lasts him a long time before reapplication is needed. Everything else I have read on the net from forum pages to actual product reviews states different. Everyone agrees that is is an extremely clean lube and does not attract dirt but everyone but my friend says it doesn't last long at all like a 90 year old man without Viagra LOL!! I should find out the truth myself but I would like to get started on the right foot the first time. I got to admit this bar oil mix appears to be really slick.
Sorry, I am not trying to be rude here, but the emboldened part is what makes me laugh every time I read about people cleaning chains. It doesn't matter how shiny it is on the outside, it's still crap underneath unless you've done the job properly.

The essential area to get to in chains is between the pins and rollers. If you don't get the gunk out of there, you will have a chain that will still feel gritty as it runs through the derailleur and gears, and will continue to wear as though you haven't cleaned it.

I have always liked Sheldon Brown's way of cleaning chains, although instead of using a Pepsi bottle, I use an old plastic yogurt container with a nice big tight-fitting lid. And I have switched to heavy duty engine degreaser as the solvent rather than diesel. A cosmetic clean-up with a brush in a solvent bath afterwards, then rinsing off the solvent with boiling water before hanging up to dry results in a really clean chain that shows no sign of grit remaining between the pins and rollers -- but a lot in the bottom of the yogurt container.

As to lube, it doesn't really matter. I am currently using Tri-Flow and it's keeping the chains quite clean and seems to have a good workable period. I did use Mobil 1 synthetic for a long time, undiluted with mineral spirits, but it produced dirty chains, despite lasting many hundreds of kilometres between applications.

I haven't had much satisfaction with the totally wax-based lubes such as White Lightning and with Boeshield T9 and Rock and Roll Gold.
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